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Aust Fam Physician. 2008 Mar;37(3):174-6.

Getting the message across-professional interpreters in general practice.

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  • 1Northern Division of General Practice, Medical Association for Prevention of War, Victoria.



Evidence and quality standards support the use of professional interpreters and discourage the use of family interpreters in medical consultations. The Northern Division of General Practice documented the use of professional and family interpreters in local general practices, together with barriers and possible facilitators in the use of professional interpreters.


Two complementary surveys were conducted in September 2006: practices were surveyed through a brief phone interview; and a written questionnaire with multiple choice and Likert scale questions was distributed to general practitioners attending division training sessions during the same period.


Surveys of practices and GPs found the use of professional interpreters is uncommon. Over two-thirds of practices reported never using the free Doctors Priority Line phone interpreting service. Family members were frequently used as interpreters, with most GPs preferring to use family rather than professional interpreters. Over a third of practices were unaware of the Doctors Priority Line. Findings suggested that relevant standards are commonly not understood or implemented.

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